December 7, 2015

Contrarieties

Posted in Advent, Atonement, Christmastide, David, Eastertide, Good Friday, Light of the World, Redeemer, Resurrection, Shepherd, Son of God, Son of Man, Suffering Servant tagged , , , at 10:57 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Heaven’s herald bore the glorious news
Of the Child a Virgin pure would bear:
Servant, yet Heaven’s everlasting Heir
And Son of David, monarch of the Jews,

Heaven’s army stormed the grassy plain
Near David’s city, lowly Bethlehem,
Overcoming shepherd-warriors, David’s kin,
With the battle cry that peace on earth would reign.

Heaven’s King walked justly among men
To heal the sick and bring to life the dead,
To feed the hungry pilgrims living bread,
To preach deliverance from every sin.

Heaven’s Face turned from the Son of Man
And plunged the earth in darkness deep
When Light and Life hung on the curséd tree
To suffer, bleed, and die, yet rise again.

Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

January 4, 2015

The Presentation of Christ

Posted in Christmastide, Grace, Incarnation, Original Sin, Presentation of Christ, Redeemer, Son of God, Son of Man tagged , , , at 8:40 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Their footsteps echoed in the temple court,
He whose faithful heart with hope was swelled
And she whose greatest hopes had been cut short.
Her husband gone, she in the temple dwelled
To serve the Lord of Hosts both night and day.
An Eve and Adam waiting to be freed
From power of sin that led mankind astray,
In prayer they waited for the promised Seed.

When Simeon’s gaze fell on Messiah’s face,
He blessed the Lord to see salvation’s day
And hailed the coming of the gift of grace,
This Son whose life and work shall grief allay.
Here now Christ would receive the sacrament,
Thus sanctifying earth to heaven afresh.
God’s mysteries dwell in corporal element,
Immortal Son abides in human flesh.

Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


The accounts of Mary and Joseph obeying the law, first by having Jesus circumcised and then by bringing Him to the temple to be presented, are too significant not to consider as important to our redemption; otherwise, why would they have been recorded? For one thing, these events show that His life reflected perfect obedience to the Law.

But there is another important point in both of these events, and that is their sacramental nature. Both in circumcision and the presentation of the firstborn (which was also a pronouncement of the purification of the mother), earthly elements (which God pronounced good at their creation) are being set apart, sanctified, made holy for the service of Heaven.

It is in that context that we see the lives of Simeon and Anna, devoted as they were to the practice of their faith (not just the mental assent to abstract truth). They were living a sacramental life and thus were privileged to be witnesses to the fulfillment of God’s promise of the Messiah who would save His people from their sin.

The sacraments are by very nature anti-Gnostic, for instead of separating the material from the spiritual, they join earth to heaven. The finest statement against the Gnostic heresy is found in John 1:14–”And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Let us never forget that the physical, material world belongs to its Creator and should always be offered back to His service. Anything else is ingratitude of the basest sort.

December 11, 2014

David’s Other Sons

Posted in Advent, Bread of Life, Christmastide, Grace, Incarnation, Lamb of God, Redeemer, Shepherd, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, The Eucharist tagged , , , , at 7:10 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Out in the fields where David penned the psalms
And tended wounded sheep with soothing balms
The shepherds kept their watch with diligence,
Straining their ears for sounds of violence:
For lions who would kill the precious lambs
Or thieves who’d take the finest of the rams.
Then as they watched, the news from heaven fell
Like snow in winter; then the sky did swell
With piercing light from realms of glory bright
And news of One who would dispel their night.
Then heaven rained down songs of praise and peace,
The promised advent of the earth’s release.
In Bethlehem, the lowly house of bread,
Lay the Messiah in a manger bed.
Then going forth with joy, they obeyed
The angel’s word and were no more afraid.
They left the ninety-nine to find the Lamb,
Who is the Son of God and Great I AM.
These words the angel gave they told abroad
To bring all nations to the house of God.

Copyright © 2014 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


This piece is a deliberate intertwining of Luke 2 and Isaiah 55, with a few other references along the way. As for Isaiah 55, it is one of my all-time favorite passages. Who could resist reading about a time when the mountains and hills will break forth in song?

If you’re wondering what the title means, it’s multifaceted. (This is poetry, after all). Throughout the gospels, our Lord is known as the Son of David, as He is a physical descendant of David. Some of the other sons of David are the shepherds, who are residents of the city of David and who spent their time protecting sheep, as did David in his early years. But even we who are not physical children of David have been made fellow heirs to the covenant that God made with David (Isaiah 55:3). Though the wise men and not the shepherds are usually associated with the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s covenant, the account of the shepherds’ faithfulness and obedience has been recorded for all nations to read.

December 23, 2012

The Burden of the Lord

Posted in Advent, Christmastide, Good Friday, Holy Week, Incarnation, Lent, Liturgical Calendar, Son of Man tagged , at 6:23 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

In ages past good shepherds spoke the truth
And faced the scorn of disobedient men.
Some heard the call while they were in their youth,
Others, advanced in age, combatted sin.
A path of grief and pain the prophets trod;
Only a few saw fruit from labor long.
They bore the burden of the Word of God
And through the struggle sang His victory song.
Another bore the burden of the Lord:
The mother of the promised Son of Man.
Her heart would be pierced by Roman sword,
But freely she submitted to God’s plan.
And taking on that burden, she has borne
The Savior, who our deepest woes has borne.

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


St. Luke’s account of the annunciation has always gripped my heart. There is so much for us to learn by St. Mary’s responses to the angel. It is quite obvious that she knew the promises of God, recorded by the prophets of old. The angel did not offer any theological explanations of the need for a Savior, though he did answer her question about the biology of it all. In her question and the angel’s answer we see two things: God does not want us to follow Him blindly but to understand as much as we are able. We also see that when our concerns have been answered, the proper response is “be it unto me according to thy word.”

It is worthwhile to study the phrase “the burden of the Lord” or “the burden of the word of the Lord” as it is found in the Old Testament. I cannot do it justice here, but one good resource is a sermon by Spurgeon. He deals beautifully with the solemn task of being a preacher of the Word. My addition to the meanings of “burden of the Lord” is a poetic play on words related to the actual physical burden a mother experiences in bearing a child.

May we ever be as faithful as the Blessed Virgin Mary.


This resulted from the notes I took during the sermon today. I scribbled down the words “the burden of the Lord” when the priest was talking about St. Mary’s willingness to endure ostracism or worse in order to be obedient to the Lord God. As to the form, it is a sort-of sonnet. I probably violated all sorts of rules by ending the last two lines with the same word, but the ideas were so important to place together that I will accept the consequences, should the poetry police ever come knocking at the door.

December 16, 2012

Lamp to Our Feet

Posted in Advent, Christmastide, Creation, Hope, Incarnation, Liturgical Calendar, Obedience, Word tagged at 9:15 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The Word spoke forth into the formless dearth:
“Let there be light,” and so the darkness fled.
The light was good and to good things gave birth.
And Light and Word like a great river spread.

Though chaos fought to keep its stranglehold,
The Light pierced through with beams of glory bright.
As Word spoke through His prophets sent of old,
The promise broke the curse of gathering night.

Through years of silence, still the Light remained
And kept sweet hope alive through trials grim.
The wretched people sat in darkness, chained,
Waiting the sound of morn’s melodious hymn.

In the beginning was the Living Word.
Then Word made flesh brought light and life to men,
And through His death new life has been transferred.
Now all must walk in Light who live in Him.

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


St. John provides an obvious link between the first chapter of his Gospel and Genesis 1. The two great “in the beginning” passages mark the narratives of creation and re-creation, the beginning of life and of life abundant. But in this poem I have taken this connection a few steps further to follow the thread in its path from Genesis to John’s Gospel and then beyond to his epistles. God’s working throughout history has been weaving a tapestry that is still taking shape as the Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven. But from our vantage point, we can look back and glimpse creation and the fall, with the aftermath that included the prophets and the promise, and then the promise fulfilled in the Word made flesh who lived and died for us. In the second verse, there is a conscious play on words, as we normally think of promises being broken. But in this case a promise broke the curse. Thanks be to God!

I purposely stopped the poem at the point where our responsibility lies. It is true that one day we will live with Him in perfect Light, but in this present age it is still a daily struggle to walk in the Light; given the phrasing in John’s epistle, it is not a foregone conclusion that we will do so. It is an act of the will, one that begins with a love of His Word and Law, as we read throughout Psalm 119, the source of the poem’s title. It is also an act of faith, hope, and love to behave now as citizens of a Kingdom we cannot yet see. Abiding in Christ is the key, as He told His disciples in the Upper Room.

God help us ever to do so.


This poem is a by-product of my work to prepare the resources for Christmas Day. Now, back to work!

December 29, 2011

He Is Not Here

Posted in Ascensiontide, Atonement, Christmastide, Eastertide, Holy Spirit, Incarnation, Redeemer, Son of God, Son of Man, Suffering Servant, The Eucharist tagged , , , at 8:37 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Why stand you here to gaze and seek His face?
He’s gone from Bethlehem, the house of bread.
Now broken ‘round the world, the Bread brings grace
Surpassing cattle stall and manger bed.

He stands not in the temple to amaze,
Nor sits upon the hill to bless and teach.
But as the Word is preached and voices praise,
His Father’s business o’er the earth will reach.

Gethsemane does not confine His prayers,
Nor does the Court of Pilate bind His love.
From heaven He invokes aid for His heirs
And to His Bride He sends the Holy Dove.

The Cross from whence He cried the end of woe
Is empty now, but there He did atone.
The empty tomb dealt death its lethal blow.
His rising raises you to heights unknown.

Why stand you here to gaze, you earth-bound ones?
Earth cannot hold the Sovereign Lord.
But rather, over all His glory runs,
Till heaven sings with earth in one accord!

Copyright © 2011 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


This morning I was overcome by a phrase: “The manger is as empty as the tomb.” The concept quickly grew in my head, and I began to recount all of the places on earth where the physical presence of Jesus isn’t anymore. But it is precisely because He won the victory and then returned to Heaven to prepare a place for us that we have hope beyond this world. He tells us in John 15 and 16 that His leaving is for our own good and that He will send the Holy Ghost to empower the Church to carry out His work throughout the earth. We are idolators at heart and would have latched onto His physical presence and completely forgotten our greater purpose.

As wonderful as Christmas is, and as important as it is for us to dwell at times on the various events of the life of Jesus, we must never forget that He transcends all of that, for if He doesn’t we are of all men most miserable! The poem title is a bit deceptive. To be sure, the physical Jesus is not here. But He is always with us, in the Spirit, in the Church, in the Word. And He has given us the awesome commission to spread the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth (Matthew 28:19-20). But He has also given us His promise that the Gospel will succeed: “But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD” (Numbers 14:21). “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).


Written 29 December 2011. The interesting thing about the poem is that I kept trying to work in the line that got it all started in my head, and I found that it just didn’t fit.

December 24, 2011

On Christmas Day

Posted in Christmastide, Incarnation, Sanctification, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering, The Eucharist tagged at 12:41 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Just as it seemed redemption was postponed,
That evil reigned and we would be disowned.
The Light of God pierced through our wintry night,
And scattered all that would offend or blight.
His great compassion meets our low estate
With blessings rich and paths made straight.
Come, weary wanderer, and refresh your soul
For He has come to make the broken whole.
To give sight to the blind, the captive free,
To end sin’s reign as prophets did foresee.
The sorrowful sighing ended, joy abounds,
And praise for our triumphant King resounds.
Yea, come and find His coffers open wide
For He has taken us to be His Bride.
He bids us not unto a dark and lowly stable
But invites us to His well provisioned table.

Copyright © 2011 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


As I continued my Christmas reflections today before going to midnight mass, the last two lines of this poem came blurting out, and they needed an introduction. That part came from Psalm 79 and Isaiah 61/Luke 2-4.


Two poems written in one day. That’s a record for me. The last few weeks have been extremely difficult. I guess the words flow freely from a heart that is forced to seek the Healer.

Update: I changed one line in the entry “On Christmas Day.” I had read the line 20 times and knew what I meant when I wrote it, but when I saw it again two hours later, I realized it could be taken another way that was completely unacceptable. Revision complete!

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